After a primary season that seemed to go on forever, we're in the thick of the political conventions in this country. The Democrats just finished, and the Republicans start up shortly. All this hoo-hah is a reminder of past political campaigns, and of how much things have changed over the years. One of the biggest changes seems to be that candidates no longer have to be middle-aged white men to be taken seriously. Then again, not all candidates are meant to be taken seriously. Hence this week's Weekend Assignment:
Weekend Assignment #231: Over the years we've had a number of oddball candidates for public office, from cartoon characters to a live pig, from comedians to tv stars to an ex-wrestler. But it's only in recent years that a candidate who doesn't fit the usual profile can run for office and actually expect to win. Who is the most unusual political candidate you have ever supported, either seriously or in jest?
Extra Credit: Present politicians excepted. have you ever regretted voting for a candidate, in light of later events?
Me first! My first Presidential election as a voter was in 1976, when peanut farmer Jimmy Carter faced accidental incumbent Gerald Ford. Both of the headliners were unusual, but at least one also-ran that year was far stranger.
I'm speaking, of course, of Howard the Duck.
I've written before about my enjoyment of the late Steve Gerber's writing, especially when I was in college and he was writing Howard the Duck. The character was ascerbic and down to earth (literally), a wry commenter on human society and an unwilling participant in a series of altercations with such satire-based foes as Bessie the Hellcow, Sudd, the Scrubbing Bubble That Walks Like a Man, and Rev. Joon Moon Yuc.
In Howard the Duck #7, Howard is drafted by the All-Night Party as their Presidential nominee. Issue #8 (see the Gene Colan cover art here) is the story of his campaign, which consists largely of ducking assassination attempts by "Canada's only super-patriot" and his associate, a duck-hating bellboy. The issue ends with a scandalous (and doctored) photo published on Election Day, which ensures that Howard can't win the election. In issue #9, written before the actual election but published immediately after it, the loathsome bellboy says, "I told you--Howard didn't win. Even back home, nobody cares who did."
I'm thinking that compared to Howard, Obama has it relatively easy. He is, after all, human, doesn't have a homicidal bellboy after him, and he's not going to be thrown out of his hotel because his political party can't pay its bills!
So anyway, the thing is, there were real Howard the Duck campaign buttons. I have one. I wore it all through college. I think my dad was a little worried that I would write-in Howard's name on the two-inch strip of paper meant for write-in votes on the old New York State voting machines. Under the law in those days, a write-in vote for president didn't count unless you could legibly write the names of all of the appropriate members of the Electoral College supporting that candidate, and be done voting in no more than three minutes. But what the heck - a protest vote is a protest vote, even if there are no electors for Howard the Duck, even is it's completely impossible to enter a vote for him and have it be counted, even if there's no such...uh, duck. So I think my dad got a little nervous when he saw me wearing my HTD button on Election Day. He made it clear to me that the 1976 election was too close and too important to mess around voting for spurious candidates. But hey, no problem. I was always going to vote for Jimmy Carter in real life.
I'll come back for the extra credit later today.
Your turn! Tell us about the quirky candidate back home, the comedian whose satirical platform actually made sense, the candidate who wasn't even human, or the very real candidate who was unusual as the first X to do Y. Don't forget to link back here in the entry, and to leave a link to the entry in the comments below. I'll be back late Thursday night with a gallery of unusual politicians. Have a great week!